Poulenc and Money

Feb 17, 2020

Credit Mary Noble Ours

The image of the starving artist may be a romantic one, but it turns out that poverty has not always been a necessary condition for writing great music. Sometimes, in fact, great music has gone along with great wealth. Felix Mendelssohn, for one, came from a very wealthy family, and during his lifetime Johannes Brahms made more money than he could ever use. Closer to our own time, the best example of a wealthy genius may have been Francis Poulenc. Poulenc was the grandson of the founder of the firm that became Rhône-Poulenc, an enormous chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer, and he wouldn’t have had to work a day in his life if he hadn’t wanted to. But work he did, and prolifically. Poulenc composed dozens of important works, including many brilliant and delightful songs and chamber music pieces; sacred music, including a beautiful Gloria for soprano, chorus, and orchestra; and three operas, including his masterpiece, Dialogues of the Carmelites.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.